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The youngest Germanic language
The name "Afrikaans" means literally "African". Afrikaans has its roots in 17th-century Dutch, but has since developed its own distinctive character and flavour in the three centuries that it developed mostly in South Africa and in parts of Namibia. Being a Germanic language, it is closely related to Dutch, English and to a lesser extent German. Compare the following:
- English: I eat an apple.
- Afrikaans: Ek eet 'n appel.
- Dutch: Ik eet een appel.
- German: Ich esse einen Apfel.
English has many more words of a Latin or French origin than Afrikaans, but a more archaic word can often show the similarities between the two languages.
- English: hound, fowl, house, milk
- Afrikaans: hond, voël, huis, melk
Most interestingly, consider these two sentences:
- My hand is in warm water.
- My pen is in my hand.
These two sentences can be either English or Afrikaans, and both have exactly the same meaning in both languages. But despite this, Afrikaans has significant differences from English. It might not be as easy to learn for an English speaker as, say, Esperanto, but it is still considered a relatively easy language to learn, and is advocated by some as a good introduction to learning Dutch and other Germanic languages in general.
Can Afrikaans people and Dutch people understand each other?
Afrikaans and Dutch are very closely related and are more or less mutually understandable. More about that here. Dutch's grammar is a bit more complex than Afrikaans', but they share a lot of the same vocabulary, albeit with slightly different spellings and pronunciations. Comparing Afrikaans and Dutch is somewhat like comparing Norwegian Bokmål and Danish.
It is a commonly held belief that Afrikaans people tend to understand Dutch quite well, and Dutch people generally need more time to understand Afrikaans. The truth of this claim may vary from individual to individual. Some Afrikaans people claim to understand written Dutch better than spoken Dutch.
Language of the oppressor?
Afrikaans is seen by some in a negative light because it was the language promoted by the apartheid regime. Some even claim that it should be forgotten. We acknowledge the terrible atrocities of that regime but still regard Afrikaans language and culture as beautiful and worthy of preservation.
Besides, more than half of the speakers of the language are not white and were victims of the regime's many manipulations, including ripping apart families and forcefully moving whole communities.
Additonally, some of the first literary works in Afrikaans were translations of holy Islamic texts by Abu Bakr Effendi that were used by the Muslim Cape slave population. Hence, the language can be equally be described as the language of the oppressed.
- Several English words, such as "commando" and "aardvark", are of Afrikaans origin.
- The Arabic script has been used to write Afrikaans.
- Afrikaans is the only Indo-European language to have developed in Africa.
- Afrikaans is the most commonly used language among non-black South Africans.
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